Very low carbohydrate diet promotes weight loss and lower cholesterol levels

A recent Duke University study looked at the effects of a very low carbohydrate diet on weight and metabolic parameters. 51 overweight or obese individuals were put on a diet consisting of unlimited meat and eggs plus two cups of salad and one cup of a low-carbohydrate vegetable, such as broccoli, every day.

It should not come as a surprise that these people lost weight. After all, Dr. Atkins has been promoting this very diet for more than two decades. If anything, the extent of their weight loss is disappointing, as it only averaged 10% of body weight. For example, an individual weighing 300 lbs., with a target body weight of 150 lbs., would have weighed 270 lbs. after six months and, considering that weight loss tends to taper off over time, would probably never have reached his or her goal without also restricting the intake of calories.

The real surprise of this study is what happened to cholesterol levels of the study participants. Total cholesterol decreased an average of 26 points. LDL cholesterol (the kind generally considered “bad”) decreased 25 points, while HDL cholesterol (considered “good”) increased 8 points. And yes, you read correctly: these people were actually consuming unlimited amounts of eggs and red meat!

Previous studies had already shown that the consumption of eggs does not raise cholesterol, but do eggs actually lower it? Or – more likely – is it that the excess sugar and carbohydrates in the average American’s everyday diet affect metabolism, causing the body to produce unhealthy levels of cholesterol?

The journal reference for this study is Am J Med, 2002;113(1)30-36.

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